The October Thing #5 – Computer Brains – August 29, 2011

Computer Brains

This page, from Ray Kurzweil’s The Age of Spiritual Machines, follows Moore’s law of exponential growth of computer power. Kurzweil believes that a revolutionary change (”singularity”) will take place as the machine-brain surpasses the human brain.

Note that although computers will exceed human-brain capacity early in the 21st century, this may not mean much, since most humans spend almost no time thinking comprehensively about the future, nor do computers. Facebook and pornography are the major uses. Edward R. Murrow said that “Television will be the most revolutionary educational tool of the 20th century.” Look what happened. On the other hand, fairly primitive computers, handled intelligently, were producing astounding ideas as early as the 1970’s—The Limits to Growth, Mankind at the Turning Point, Reshaping International Order, MOIRA, etc.


1 thought on “The October Thing #5 – Computer Brains – August 29, 2011”

  1. Okay, let’s first acknowledge that, as you requested, Ed, I’m WAAAY outside my comfort zone commenting on a subject about which I’m relatively ignorant. With that proviso, though, here goes.

    The concept of the “Singularity” is flawed, and it won’t happen. First, nobody really knows what Moore’s law originally said. Intel commandeered the term and said it often and loudly enough so that there’s now a cultural expectation that computing power will double every two years. If that’s the law, we’re breaking it, because – as you’ve already pointed out, Ed, in The October Thing #7 – we’re buying and selling more machines and more chips now with LOWER computing power. They’re smaller, but they’re not more powerful.

    More importantly, the concept of the singularity (notice the not-too-clever way I just insulted it by converting it back to lower-case) depends on the continuation of industrial civilization. Industrial civilization is already beginning to crumble.

    My home-based business requires that I ride my computer hard and put it away wet, so I make sure it’s always under full support from Dell. I’m going to be replacing it next year after owning it for three years, and the machine I’m considering has about the same computing power, less memory, and a tad more disk space than the one I bought three years ago. It costs about the same. It may be the last computer I ever buy.

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